Congrats to riggo44 and lsulax for finishing #1 and #2 in The Huddle $500 FreeRoll for Week 1. They pocketed $150 and $100 in this FanDuel weekly contest that had 280 entries. The JUMbotron finished 129th out of the 280 teams, which means 128 people pocketed $5 bucks each… just for outscoring me! It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s time to jump in for Week 2! Just CLICK HERE.
Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 1.
1. Rashard Mendenhall carried 12 times for 45 yards and did not catch a pass in the 35-7 loss at Baltimore. Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 41 passes for 280 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs.
The Ravens’ offensive line was mauling them early, fueled by a rabid home crowd and Ray Rice’s 36-yard run on the first play of the game. Before you knew it, the score was 14-0 and Mendenhall’s role was diminished. He broke a 23-yard run late in the 1st quarter but three subsequent carries in the red zone netted 2 yards. The Steelers never got back in the red zone all day. Mendenhall didn’t help things when he fumbled on the Steelers’ 18-yard line which led to the Ravens going up 29-7. Game over. In the 4th quarter RB Mewelde Moore was in the backfield a lot with the 4-WR sets. At least Mike Wallace came through for fantasy owners with 8 catches for 107 yards. Note: The Steelers lost RT Willie Colon for the year with a torn triceps, which makes the decision to cut backup OT Tony Hillis right before the season look even shakier.
2. Chris Johnson carried 9 times for 24 yards in the 16-14 loss at Jacksonville. He did add 6 catches for 25 yards which buoyed fantasy owners in PPR leagues and made it somewhat less of a total disaster. The big surprise was Kenny Britt’s 5 catches for 136 yards and 2 TDs, coming off a hamstring-marred preseason.
Johnson looked like he was running in molasses which lends credence to the theory that extended holdouts can cripple a RB’s September output. This is CJ’s preseason, basically. What really struck me as odd was new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer doing the same exact things ex-OC Mike Heimerdinger: CJ up the middle, CJ off tackle, etc. Not one toss sweep or stretch play. However, he will get rolling soon, and it was good to see Johnson on the field for most of the 2nd and 3rd-and longs, racking up 7 pass targets. That’s the kind of thing that will assure Johnson of being a top-10 fantasy back if all other things remain equal. Matt Hasselbeck struggled to exploit the Jags’ zone coverage but the 80-yard TD to Britt was an example of what the cagey QB can do when plays break down. 6 of the Titans’ 11 drives were three-and-outs.
3. Tom Brady completed 32 of 48 passes for 517 yards and 4 TDs in the Monday night win at Miami. He threw 1 INT and was only sacked once. In fact, in 49 drop-backs Brady was literally only touched five times by a Dolphins defender – with only two of them considered “hits.”
Good heavens Brady is in the same zone that Aaron Rodgers resides in. Brady has thrown for 300+ yards and/or 2+ TDs in 10 of his last 10 full regular-season games. Rodgers, for all the talk about his mastery of late, has “only” done it in 8 of his last 10. The Dolphins had no answer for Brady and his seemingly endless supply of pass-catchers. Wes Welker (8-160-2) and Aaron Hernandez (7-103-1) were his favorite targets with 12 and 10 targets respectively. Deion Branch (7-93-0) was next with 9 targets. Injury note: Patriots center Dan Koppen broke his ankle and is out for the year. Brady faces San Diego, Buffalo, and Oakland in the next three weeks.
4. Kevin Kolb threw for 309 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs in the 28-21 win over Carolina.
The big one was a 70-yard TD to Early Doucet who is fighting Andre Roberts for the #2 spot in Arizona. Doucet 1, Roberts 0. Kolb could have had a bigger day but two trips inside the Panthers’ 5-yard line came up empty. He was only sacked twice too. Beanie Wells was more than solid with 18 carries for 90 yards and 1 TD, and was even targeted 4 times in the passing game, catching all 4 for 12 yards. Cardinals RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hand, biceps) might be out in Week 2 and Chester Taylor was inactive because he’s not up to speed with the Cardinals’ playbook – so Wells is not going to leave the football field very often. Arizona faces Seattle, NYG, and Minnesota in the next three weeks so Kolb is very startable in all fantasy leagues. Great value in the 8th or 9th round!
5. The Buffalo Bills defense held Kansas City to 213 total yards and 7 points, with 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fumble recoveries, and 9 tackles for loss in a 41-7 whitewashing.
It was surprising to say the least, but listening to many NFL insiders this preseason I kept hearing stuff like “The Bills have a lot of talent on defense,” and “DT Kyle Williams is the most underrated defensive player in the NFL.” Indeed. The Bills forced three Chiefs turnovers which led to 17 points, and they opened the game by holding KC to four-and-out, three-and-out, and three-and-out drives. The rout was on. SS Bryan Scott erupted with 8 tackles, 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss. “He'll play inside as a linebacker, he can go deep if we need him to... he'll even cover a wide receiver,” said HC Chan Gailey. However, CB Terrence McGee has a hamstring injury and could be out a while. That leaves the Bills with just four healthy CBs, and two are rookies. Was this game an aberration? Buffalo faces QBs Jason Campbell (in Buffalo), Tom Brady (in Buffalo), and Dalton/Gradkowski (at Cincy) in the next three weeks.
6. Cam Newton threw for 422 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in the 28-21 loss at Arizona. He also added 18 yards on the ground with a rushing TD.
Newton was the first rookie QB in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in his first career start -- and tied the league record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie QB, originally set by Matthew Stafford in 2009. Newton was poised but kinetic, very into the moment like he was a 4-year veteran. Steve Smith had 178 yards and 2 TDs on 8 catches, becoming the 2nd player in franchise history to top 9,000 career receiving yards with 9,062 (Muhsin Muhammad had 9,255 yards). Smith’s 178 yards is the 3rd highest total of his career -- 201 vs. Minnesota in 2005 and 189 at Baltimore in 2006. I benched Reggie Wayne for Steve Smith with 4 minutes before kickoff Sunday and can’t recall ever being so happy about a last-second lineup call. Smith burned rookie speedster CB Patrick Peterson several times, but Peterson got the last laugh with this game-winning punt return for a score. Wow! He’s faster than a scalded dog!
7. Sam Bradford threw for 188 yards and 0 TDs, 0 INTs in the 31-13 loss to Philadelphia. He also had a fumble that was recovered for a TD.
Bradford hit his right index finger on a helmet and is in danger of missing Week 2. Rams reporter Bernie Miklasz says Bradford’s MRI was negative but the QB admitted Monday that “I don't have the motion (in the finger) that I want right now.” Bradford didn’t look near as sharp as he did in the preseason, when he was firing BBs. The Rams O-line allowed Bradford to get hassled too much (5 sacks, 11 QB hits!) and even when Bradford had time he often misfired. He missed Danny Amendola in the end zone for a sure TD. Amendola later suffered a dislocated elbow and could miss 4-8 weeks depending on which report you believe. Steven Jackson busted a 47-yard TD run early but pulled his quad on the sprint and is questionable for Week 2. I’ll add that Jackson looked thinner and faster than he has the last few years. Cadillac Williams was just about awesome in place of Jackson with 19 carries for 91 yards and 6 catches for 49 yards.
8. Rex Grossman completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the 28-14 win over the Giants.
Say what you want about Grossman’s past, but it’s obvious he’s been studying and working hard at his craft. His 4-yard TD to Jabar Gaffney (3-54-1) was a gutsy laser. The Giants got to Grossman 4 times but actually gave him a break in the second half when they stopped blitzing. Early in the game they blitzed on four straight plays and had Grossman all messed up. TE Fred Davis (5-105-0) showed his raw talent just like he did in 2009 when Chris Cooley was hurt. Cooley (2-21-0) is obviously not 100% so Davis needs to be owned in all 12-team leagues. Washington had just one 3-and-out in the second half and was 3-of-4 for TDs in the red zone. Grossman faces Arizona, Dallas, and St. Louis in the next three weeks – not a brutal stretch by any means. Tim Hightower carried 25 times for 72 yards and 1 TD, plus he caught 3 passes for 25 yards. Hightower 1, JUMbotron 0.
9. Andre Johnson caught 7 passes for 95 yards and 1 TD in the 34-7 win over the Colts.
Johnson managed these numbers despite a big blowout with 37 RB carries eating up the clock. Johnson had a somewhat meager (for him) 11 targets. Derrick Ward started the game and had 11 carries for 39 yards and 1 TD; then the game played out perfectly for Ben Tate to get heavily involved while Ward got an early rest. Tate carried 24 times – 15 in the second half when the Colts were bloodied and beaten – for 116 yards and 1 TD. LB Mario Williams suddenly looked comfortable in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme after struggling mightily in the preseason: He had 2 sacks and forced Kerry Collins into an intentional grounding penalty.
10. A.J. Green caught 1 pass for 41 yards, a touchdown in the 4th quarter that helped seal a 27-17 win at Cleveland. Cedric Benson carried 25 times for 121 yards and 1 TD. His 39-yard scoring run with :18 to go iced the win. Andy Dalton (10-of-15, 81 yds, 1 TD) suffered a forearm contusion and will be questionable for Week 2.
Green, my pick for 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year, finally got away from blanketing corner Joe Haden in the 4th quarter for the score. He got his first lesson in nasty NFL man coverage with Haden pulling, shoving and cheating for most of the game – and Green threw a fit after one play where Haden got away with one. Give the rookie credit for staying focused and making the big play when backup QB Bruce Gradkowski called his number. Benson’s day wasn’t especially great until his 25th and final carry when he busted the big one. But that’s what Benson does, he stays with it – grinding and grinding – until something gives. Like I said in our Big Lead Sports ‘The Huddle’ radio show on XM 87 last Thursday, “Cedric Benson is what Shonn Greene aspires to be.”
11. Packers WR Randall Cobb caught 2 passes for 35 yards and 1 TD, plus he returned kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in the 42-34 win over New Orleans.
Cobb’s kickoff return TD was breathtaking. But the key to me was that both of Cobb’s 2 targets were on 1st down in a 3-wide set with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Cobb. Driver wasn’t out there. Neither was James Jones. On a couple other snaps Cobb was on the inside in 4-wide sets and threw one nice block on a James Starks run. The rookie looks like he gets it. “He's shown that from the first day of training camp,” Packers HC Mike McCarthy said. “When other players talk about a player having a chance to be special, he is one of those guys. He's very raw. He's picking up our system.” ESPN writer Kevin Seifert might have summed it up: “NFC North, meet Randall Cobb. He's going to be around for a while.”
12. Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin caught 4 passes for 83 yards and 1 TD in the 33-17 loss to San Francisco.
With Sidney Rice (shoulder) out, Baldwin moved into the No. 3 spot behind Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu and made plays in his NFL debut. His 55-yard TD was a short pass that he grabbed and scooted 50 yards to cut the 49ers lead to 19-17. Baldwin was an undrafted free agent who secured his spot on the team with a 105-yard kickoff return vs. Denver in the preseason. Baldwin led the Seahawks with 6 targets, believe it or not, and worked out of the slot for at least 15 snaps. Keep Doug Baldwin on your watch list because the Seahawks will be throwing in the second half all year long. Marshawn Lynch carried 13 times for 33 yards and caught 2 passes for 14 yards. Strangely, Justin Forsett only had 3 carries and preseason spark Leon Washington didn’t have one.
13. Brandon Marshall caught 7 passes for 139 yards in the wild 38-24 loss to New England on Monday night. Chad Henne threw for 416 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT.
Marshall was unstoppable and could have busted 200+ yards if he got into the 16-18 target range (he had 13). He limped off in the final seconds with a leg cramp (or tweaked knee?) but should be OK. Marshall walked on his own power. My #4 ranked preseason fantasy WR tickled me to death Monday night and I can’t wait to see how he and Henne develop together. Reggie Bush had 10 targets, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess each had 7 targets, and TE Anthony Fasano had 6 targets (turning them into 5 catches for 82 yards). Miami’s schedule lines up nicely for more pass-o-rama games against Houston (Wk 2), San Diego (Wk 4), and Denver (Wk 7). Henne, one of the JUMbotron Sweet 16 Sleepers, would have topped a 100 QB rating against the vaunted Pats defense if not for a meaningless INT on the last play of the game.